The Meze Rai Solo earphones are the Romanian manufacturer’s entry-level in-ear headphones. Equipped with metal shells that look like those of the Meze Rai Penta earphones, they differ in their design. These earphones use only one driver per earpiece, hence their name.
Sold for 249 euros, the Meze Rai Solo earphones offer a neutral yet fun, refined and well-controlled sound signature according to the manufacturer. Is this promise kept?
Meze Rai Solo: the brand
Meze Audio has come a long way from its humble beginnings in 2011 and has built itself a solid reputation in the field of hi-fi headphones and IEMs.
While the Meze 99 Classics (2015) and Meze Empyrean (2018) headphones made a strong impression and brought the Romanian manufacturer international recognition, the brand hasn’t neglected the in-ear monitor market.
Released in 2013, the brand’s first in-ear headphones, the Meze Audio 11 Classics feature customized 8mm dynamic drivers housed inside ebony shells.
They were revamped in 2016 with the Meze Audio 11 Neo and Meze Audio 12 Classics earphones that feature Mylar drivers covered with a thin layer of titanium. This audiophile structure uses 7N (99.99999% pure) copper wire, as well as aluminum shells for the 11 Neo and walnut for the 12 Classics. The high-quality components and elegant finish are accompanied by a beautifully clear restitution.
Released in 2018, the Meze Rai Penta earphones are further proof, if further proof were needed, that Antonio Meze is a master of his craft. These high-end IEMs, which required three years of development, feature five transducers per earpiece in a three-way configuration housed inside anodized aluminum shells.
Meze Rai Solo: packaging & accessories
The Meze Rai Solo earphones come in a rather luxurious case that has a window on the front, revealing the earphones. They are encased in a piece of protective foam alongside the imitation leather transport case, emblazoned with the brand’s logo (in metal) and identical to that of the Meze Rai Penta earphones.
The manufacturer includes eight pairs of eartips with these earphones, all in silicone:
- 3 standard models (sizes S, M, L)
- 3 short bi-flange (sizes S, M, L)
- 2 long bi-flange (sizes M, L)
Meze Rai Solo: presentation
The Meze Rai Solo in-ear headphones feature unique, specifically designed dynamic drivers. These drivers use Unified Pistonic Motion technology and are encased inside steel shells whose ergonomic design is very similar to that of the Meze Rai Penta.
Unified Pistonic Motion technology
The Meze Rai Solo earphones feature a single 9.2mm dynamic driver inside each earpiece. These exclusive drivers differ from the design of traditional dynamic drivers where the conductive wires of the coil are glued to the back of a thin diaphragm. This design is a major source of loss of balance in the diaphragm’s movement, which generates vibrations.
The Meze Rai Solo earphones’ UPM drivers have a unique design to eliminate this major flaw as their diaphragm is electrically conductive. Therefore, as no wires are fixed to the diaphragm, the latter isn’t disturbed when moving. The motion is symmetrical, without disturbance from the coil’s wires.
There are multiple advantages to this design: lower distortion, clearer mids and better reproduction of the lows.
Ergonomic steel shells
The Meze Rai Solo earphones’ shells are made from stainless steel, an extremely tough material with low resonance and virtually no interference. The acoustic tubes use different colors for easy identification: red for the right earpiece and blue for the left earpiece.
Their anatomical shape, which is very similar to that of the Meze Rai Pentas, ensures great comfort: each shell fits snugly inside the auricle, naturally finding its place. Despite their metal shells, these earphones aren’t very heavy and are very pleasant to wear.
Audiophile grade cable
The removable cable that comes with the Meze Rai Solo earphones has two different colored MMCX connectors at its extremity to make it easy to connect the earphones: red for the right channel, blue for the left channel. At the other end of the cable, the mini-jack plug with gold plated contacts is angled. It is made of translucent material, just like the cable sheath through which the silver plated copper wires are visible.
- Dynamic driver with UPM (Unified Pistonic Motion) technology
- Driver diameter: 9.2mm
- Diaphragm thickness: 9µm
- Impedance: 16 ohms
- Acoustic pressure: 105dB (±3dB, for 1mW at 1kHz)
- Frequency response: 18Hz – 22kHz
- Distortion: <1% for 1mW at 1kHz
- Silver plated copper conductors
- MMCX connectors
- Angled 3.5mm mini-jack plug, gold plated contacts
- Length: 1.3m
- Hard transport case in EVA with the Meze logo in metal
- 3 pairs of silicone eartips (S, M, L)
- 3 pairs of short silicone bi-flange eartips (S, M, L)
- 2 pairs of long silicone bi-flange eartips (M, L)
Meze Rai Solo: listening conditions
For this review of the Meze Rai Solo earphones, we mostly used the FiiO M9 DAP. Equipped with a double AK4490 DAC, it incorporates a version of Android optimized for audio. This next-generation HD DAP let us play our Deezer (Premium subscription, mp3 320kbps) and Qobuz (Sublime+ HiFi subscription) playlists, as well as high-resolution files saved on a memory card and shared over the local network.
We also used an Android smartphone featuring a Qualcomm WCD9341 DAC compatible with 32-bit/384kHz PCM and DSD 64/128 streams. We made sure to bypass the Android audio mixer (limited to 48kHz) by using the USB Audio Player PRO app.
As is always the case with in-ear headphones, it is vital to choose the correct eartips to ensure optimal comfort as well as good passive isolation. It is the absolute prerequisite to avoid any sound leaks, which inevitably leads to volume loss, especially in the low frequencies.
Just like the Meze Rai Pentas, the Meze Rai Solo IEMs are easy to put on and remain very comfortable, even after several hours of listening. The ergonomic design of the shells is the main reason for this, as they sit naturally in the ear cavity. The cable that goes behind the ear has a shape-memory sheath a few centimetres long. This allows the cable to be adjusted to fit the shape of the ear and reduce strain on the earphones, which then stay perfectly in place.
Meze Rai Solo: listening impressions
These earphones are characterized by their smoothness, as well as their rather neutral sound and slight emphasis on the mids. This sound signature is incredibly serene, with all genres of music, for a consistently natural and precise result.
- Lows: rather wide with a lot of impact, they weren’t as deep as those of the Rai Pentas and could have benefited from being more punchy. However, it never became frustrating during our listening sessions.
- Mids: accurately toned, the voices were natural and soft.
- Highs: there was no sibilance to deplore in this frequency range, which was actually a little subdued. Consequently, these IEMs did not cause fatigue, but the level of detail was affected. We would have liked to hear a bit more.
- Spatialization: the stereo was pronounced and the spaciousness of the soundstage was satisfactory. The positioning of the instruments and voices was precise.
To come back to the manufacturer’s statement, the Meze Rai Solo earphones do provide a neutral, refined and well-controlled sound signature. They are a little too tame in our opinion. Although musical, these in-ear headphones need more aerial highs and punchier bass to be described as fun.
Meze Rai Solo: compared to…
FiiO FH7: at twice the price, the FiiO FH7 earphones are hybrid models that feature a dynamic driver for the lows and two pairs of balanced armature drivers for the mids and the highs inside each earpiece. The difference in sound tips the scale in favor of the Chinese IEMs, which provide punchier lows, more body in the mids and more details in the highs. However, we cannot fault the Meze Rai Solos, which provide a consistently precise and balanced restitution despite their single driver per earpiece.
Shure SE535: the Shure IEMs offer lows that aren’t as deep as the Meze Rai Solo’s, which are more confident in this frequency range thanks to their dynamic driver. The Shure SE535’s balanced armature drivers are more limited. On the other hand, the latter offer a little more detail in the top end of the spectrum. They also seemed to provide a more spacious soundstage. However, the Meze Rai Solos are more comfortable and their aluminum shells are more robust.
Meze Rai Penta: these high-end in-ear headphones from the Romanian manufacturer impressed us with their warmth, balance and dynamism. With only one driver, no matter how good it is, the Meze Rai Solo inevitably suffers from this comparison. The Pentas, which feature a hybrid design, easily outclass the Solos with more expertly outlined and powerful lows, more textured mids, and high frequencies that brighten the soundstage beautifully. But this level of quality doesn’t come cheap…
Meze Rai Solo: conclusion
While the Meze Rai Solo earphones compete equally with the Meze Rai Pentas concerning finish quality and comfort, which is remarkable as they are four times cheaper, the comparison isn’t in their favor regarding sound quality. Which is completely normal given the differences in design (the Penta integrates 5 drivers per earpiece).
Putting aside the competition within the brand, the Solos are very attractive earphones that provide a soft, precise and balanced listening experience. Their robust and ergonomic design provides outstanding comfort and is a major advantage.
What we liked
- The comfort
- The high-quality finish
- The smooth and natural mids
What we would have liked
- More impact and energy in the lows
- More presence in the highs